Sweden heads to the polls with far-right threat looming

Sweden heads to the polls with far-right threat looming
Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and opposition leader Ulf Kristersson. Credit: Swedish government website

Sweden will head to the polls on Sunday for the 2022 general elections, with the political conversation appearing to have increasingly shifted to the right to keep the far-right at bay.

A poll from NOVUS on 8 September showed that a left-leaning coalition would garner 49.1% of the votes, while a right-wing coalition would achieve 49.9% of the votes,

The tight race between the voting blocs means it could prove tricky to form a coalition, and could be left leaderless for months at a time of crisis in Europe. When Sweden went to the polls in 2018, the close race resulted in a hung parliament.

Although NOVUS polling is pointing to a victory for the rightwing coalition, other polls show that most voters would opt for four more years with social-democratic Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, rather than opposition leader Ulf Kristersson.

However, if the right were to secure the vote, it would prove to be a breakthrough for the far-right Sweden Democrats, who for years have been shunned by all other political parties.

The centre-right party, Moderaterna, appear willing to form a government with them, as polls show that the Sweden Democrats are the biggest party to the right with a 21% of votes while Moderaterna would secure 18%. The other two parties in the coalition are the Liberals and the Christian Democrats.

The coalition on the left consists of the Social Democrats together with the Environment Party, the Left, and the social-liberal Centre Party.

Sweden Democrats

The political landscape in Sweden changed following the rise of the Sweden Democrats.

Now, the Social Democrats' rhetoric has also moved to the right to keep voters who might otherwise be tempted to leave the party in favour of the Sweden Democrats. The social democrat leader promises more police and harsher punishment, in relation to the gang violence that Sweden has suffered.

Kristersson too says he will clean up the streets of Sweden, particularly its troubled suburbs. Given his focus on law and order, it should be an 'easy' election for Kristersson due to increasing gang-related crime in Sweden.

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For Kristersson, the challenge has been to unite the parties on the right, according to news outlet Berlingske. During Sweden's last election, Kristersson was unable to form a government as he would have had to form a government with the Sweden Democrats, which have been seen as a pariah in Swedish politics.

Kristersson now increasingly looks like he cannot suffer another defeat, and may be open to forming a government with the Sweden Democrats.

Yet for voters, distinguishing between the promises of politicians, which look increasingly similar, may be challenging.

Liberal ultimatum

Most other parties in Sweden's Parliament do not view the Sweden Democrats as an acceptable party to go into government with, despite its prominence. The social-liberal Center Party's mandates are now key in an election that promises to be tight, as the party could go into coalition with both the left and the right.

However, the party refuses to be in a coalition with the Sweden Democrats to the right, which means it will bolster Social Democrats to the left. This support comes with a price tag: the liberal Centre Party is known for its dislike for The Left and their condition is that The Left cannot help form the government or have any influence on future budgets.

In essence, it means that The Left would need to deliver the mandates for a government with the Social Democrats and the Centre Party, but get nothing in return.

The ultimatum as well as the issue of the Sweden Democrats could then make forming a government challenging after Sunday's vote in Sweden.

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